Its Climate of Thrift, and Attainable Growth.—Its Beautifying and Ornamental Elegance.—Its Diffused Existence.—Opinions as to its Nativity.—How Propagated and Manner of Culture.—Its Favorite Soil.—Description of its Leaf, Flower, and Fruit.—Medicinal Properties of its Berries.—Description and Uses of its Wood.—Its Seed, How Obtained.
The Pride of India nourishes in Florida and other Southern States, where it attains its fullest magnitude, arriving at the height of from thirty to forty feet in favored situations, and is highly esteemed for its beautifying and ornamental elegance. It is also widely diffused through many countries of Europe and Asia, and is chiefly cultivated for the beautifying effect produced by its floral productiveness and magnificent foliage. Opinions have fixed Persia as the country of its original nativity, while others hold that it has been naturalized to the United States at an early age, being found growing in wild profusion in the forests of the South.
This tree may be propagated from seed, which should be sown in beds of light, moderately rich soil at not less than two inches apart, so as to allow for the development of its leaves and shoots. Its favorite ground is a warm loamy or sandy soil, which well fits it for planting in worn-out fields. The young plants may be taken up at the end of the first season and planted in nursery lines; and at the end of the second year they can be removed to their position of permanency. When planted singly its growth is less elevated than when grown collectively. Its leaves are large, of a dark-green color, doubly pinnate, and composed of smooth, acuminate, denticulated leaflets. They change color and fall on the arrival of cold weather, which in the Southern States usually sets in about December. Its odorous flowers, which appear in April or May, resemble those of the lilac-tree, and form beautiful axillary clusters at the extremity of the shoot. Its fruit is round or oblong in shape, of a yellowish color when ripe, and is supposed to be somewhat poisonous, and has been used, mixed with grease, to destroy rats and other vermin. An oil is extracted from the pulpy part of its berries, of a bitter taste, which is considered a narcotic stimulant. The wood of this tree is of a reddish color, sufficiently strong and durable for use in architectural structures, is sometimes used as a substitute for ash, and is said to make good fuel.
To obtain the seed for sowing, the berries should be mixed with a hght, sandy earth, and laid in a flat heap of not more than two inches in depth, and allowed to remain in that state for a year, when the seed may be separated from the soil by sifting.